Fortress Press

Black Suffering: Silent Pain, Hidden Hope

Black Suffering

Silent Pain, Hidden Hope

James Henry Harris (Author)


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In Black Suffering, James Henry Harris explores the nexus of injustices, privations, and pains that contribute to the daily suffering seen and felt in the lives of Black folks. This suffering is so normalized in American life that it often goes unnoticed, unseen, and even--more often--purposely ignored. The reality of Black suffering is both omnipresent and complicated--both a reaction to and a result of the reality of white supremacy, its psychological and historical legacy, and its many insidious and fractured expressions within contemporary culture. Because Black suffering is so wholly disregarded, it must be named, discussed, and analyzed.

Black Suffering articulates suffering as an everyday reality of Black life. Harris names suffering's many manifestations, both in history and in the present moment, and provides a unique portrait of the ways Black suffering has been understood by others. Drawing on decades of personal experience as a pastor, theologian, and educator, Harris gives voice to suffering's practical impact on church leaders as they seek to forge a path forward to address this huge and troubling issue. Black Suffering is both a mixtape and a call to consciousness, a work that identifies Black suffering, shines a light on the insidious normalization of the phenomenon, and begins a larger conversation about correcting the historical weight of suffering carried by Black people.

The book combines elements of memoir, philosophy, historical analysis, literary criticism, sermonic discourse, and even creative nonfiction to present a "remix" of the suffering experienced daily by Black people.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506464381
  • eBook ISBN 9781506464398
  • Dimensions 5.75 x 8.75
  • Pages 200
  • Publication Date October 6, 2020


"Writing from within a matrix of hope and despair the author of this book, an African American scholar and preacher, reflects on his life's experience and work among people who are both resistant and resilient. Drawing upon the resources of ethnography, storytelling, history, literature, philosophy, and theology he analyzes and describes the pathos of black suffering from the time of slavery up to the present day. This perceptive meditation on the experience of suffering and hope will inspire all readers to think and work more diligently for a better world."

Peter J. Paris, Elmer G. Homrighausen Professor Emeritus, Christian Social Ethics, Princeton Theological Seminary

"Black Suffering: Silent Pain, Hidden Hope provides readers an opportunity to think deeply about a collective response to the universality of Black suffering. In an era where increasingly #BlackLivesDontMatter, this text is a timely reminder of the poignant strands of hope that call us individually and collectively to the work of justice."

Angela D. Sims, President, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School

"While Black suffering is global in scope, Harris hones in carefully on the particular situation of African American suffering in the United States, and the Hip Hop "mixtape" serves as a metaphor for his method that draws upon a myriad of Black intellectual and cultural sources to investigate, make sense of, and call prophetically for an end to the disproportionate suffering that attends Black existence."

Stephen C. Finley, associate professor, Louisiana State University

"At once, with story-telling rich in experience; prose that is sermonic in tone; and arguments steeped in philosophical, theological, biblical analysis and depth, James Harris offers us a view of black suffering that is more than data and cognitive mapping. He uncovers the evil of the experience of black suffering amidst the silences that point to something else: a way to a hidden hope imprisoned by a subjugated consciousness that we must liberate from the white imaginary that holds the key to the prison door."

Walter Fluker, professor emeritus of ethical leadership at Boston University and Dean's Professor of Spirituality, Ethics and Leadership at Candler School of Theology

"In this timely and necessary work, James Henry Harris gives voice and insight into the present reality and historical complexity of Black Suffering and silent pain. It is a powerful and poignant wake up call to those who have become numb to their own pain and that of others. This is a textbook for any preacher, pastor, and practitioner of the gospel hoping to engage in relevant healing and liberative ministry."

Jacqueline A. Thompson, senior pastor, Allen Temple Baptist Church, Oakland, California